An unprecedented $8.3 million settlement has been reached for over a thousand dismissed Thai garment workers who sewed bras for a factory that supplies lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret, according to labor rights groups.
After going bankrupt, Brilliant Alliance Thai shuttered its Samut Prakan facility in March 2021.
However, the 1250 laid-off workers, many of whom had worked at the facility for more than a decade, were not given the severance compensation required by Thai law.
Although the factory also produced underwear for Sycamore Partners’ plus-size American brands Lane Bryant and Torrid, only Victoria’s Secret contributed to the settlement through a financing agreement with the facility’s owners.
In a statement, Victoria’s Secret announced that a deal had been reached, although it did not specify the sum involved.
“We had been in active conversation with the plant owners for several months to reach a settlement,” the business claimed.
“We regret they were not ultimately in a position to resolve this problem on their own, therefore Victoria’s Secret agreed to advance the severance monies to the factory owners to guarantee the workers got their full severance amounts deserved,” it said.
AFP reached out to Sycamore Partners for comment, but they did not answer.
According to the international workers’ rights organization Solidarity Centre, the accord is the largest-ever pay theft settlement at a single garment plant.
“I believe it’s absolutely uncommon and marks a new paradigm,” Solidarity Center Thailand national director David Welsh told AFP. “The magnitude of severance and interest paid on it… as well as direct participation by the brand.”
“It disproves the myth that global corporations are only passive investors,” he added.
“We want more firms to follow suit because, unfortunately, this isn’t the last of its type — there will be many, many more.”
Sacked workers and Thai union officials have been protesting outside Government House in Bangkok for the last year, demanding their wages.
Some protesting employees have been prosecuted with criminal offenses, including breaching public gathering restrictions during the epidemic, said Prasit Prasopsuk, head of Thailand’s Confederation of Industrial Labour.
According to a study published by the Worker Rights Consortium in April of last year, comparable pay theft incidents have been reported in 31 garment manufacturers across nine nations.
Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, claimed those incidents were simply the “tip of the iceberg,” and that pay theft in the garment sector had grown as clothing orders decreased during the epidemic.
He calculated that factory closures and unpaid severance owed $500 million to garment employees throughout the world.
Last week, he added, several workers at the Samut Prakan factory earned the equivalent of more than four years’ salaries.
“It’s the equivalent of a worker’s entire life savings… and it’s all gone. It’s tough to put into words what it’s like to lose something and then regain it “Nova said.